It’s hard to overstate how much OnlyFans has turned the general downward trajectory of being an adult entertainment artist.
Prior to the subscription service’s arrival in 2016, so-called tube sites – video platforms that aggregated stolen pornographic content, streamed it for free, and sucked revenue from banners and video ads – drove many of the biggest studios going bankrupt.
Those who stayed went from paying the best thousands of dollars per scene to, typically, a few hundred.
OnlyFans’ clean and streamlined interface has allowed people over the age of 18 to sell and buy monthly subscriptions to a too daring image and video feed for Instagram. There the power was in the hands of those doing their own work: a creator with a few thousand monthly subscribers could earn up to $ 25,000 per month posting content, while still retaining full ownership of those photos and movies.
And as these creators built lucrative businesses, they built the business with them.
That’s why an announcement by OnlyFans last Thursday that it would ban sexual activity altogether, starting in October, caused some panic in the porn industry, said Brian Gross, an industry publicist. He added that among his clients there was also a palpable sadness that at a time when there was increased respect and empathy for sex workers, a business they had helped start was preparing to kick them out. in the cold.
Then, within days, the company reversed its decision, announcing in a tweet on Wednesday: “We have obtained the assurances necessary to support our diverse designer community and have suspended the policy change scheduled for October 1.”
“Thank you all for making your voice heard,” he said.
The change was, in part, because of backlash from creators, who were starting to leave the platform in droves.
“You have hard working, very successful content creators who put in a lot of time and effort and have a consumer on the other end of the phone who wants to buy it,” Mr. Gross said. . “You see article after article about his success, and for some reason the outside world doesn’t want him to be recognized.”
Matthew Camp, an artist who posts gay porn content several times a week, said in an interview that he sees the company’s proposed ban as a way to bring credit to the credit card companies that are increasingly becoming more uncomfortable with handling pornography transactions.
But on Wednesday, the company said it had struck a deal with its payment processors. A spokeswoman for OnlyFans told The New York Times, in an emailed statement: “The changes proposed on October 1, 2021 are no longer necessary due to assurances from banking partners that OnlyFans can support all genres. of creators. “
‘Less is more?’
Dannii Harwood became the first OnlyFans content creator in 2016. She has since used her on-camera work to run a management company with over 200 OnlyFans creators as clients.
According to Harwood, Tim Stokely – the site’s founder – and his partners “had little choice” but to change the rules first. These credit card companies are just too powerful, and while their growing reluctance to process payments for porn is arguably playing the game of religious conservatives, there are other legitimate concerns that consumers of porn are among the most likely to dispute transactions. Credit card companies also don’t want to unwittingly process payments for material about which consent issues will later arise.
A representative for Mr Stokely did not respond to a request for comment, but in an interview with the Financial Times on Tuesday, Mr Stokely blamed the change entirely on the banks, saying that if the situation with them changes, the new bans around the sexual content would be removed.
Ms Harwood noted that many of OnlyFans’ top performing artists aren’t those who post sexually explicit content, but those who have mastered the art of ‘tease and titillate’.
She herself has never posted sex on her thread.
Instead, she started making over $ 50,000 a month from subscriptions and special requests, which cost more. Men paid her for challenges, like answering the door naked and driving in their underwear.
Through direct messaging, she chatted with fans daily, learning about their habits, sexual predilections and insecurities, becoming what she likes to call an “online girlfriend”.
“Once subscribers see it all, they move on to the next creator. This has been proven time and time again with my daughters, ”she said on Friday. “I keep telling them, ‘Less is more. “”
But Ms Harwood did not deny that had the ban gone as planned, a number of regular porn performers would likely have migrated to other sites.
Alex Tikas, 48, was due to leave OnlyFans after the announcement. As he said, “If you don’t want us and you don’t want our money, I guarantee that there are places where we can distribute our content. For now, he keeps his OnlyFans but also keeps accounts with three other sites.
The largest of these sites is Justfor.fans, which founder Dominic Ford says now has more than 14,000 verified creators, 2,000 of whom completed the sign-up process within hours of changing the Terms of Service. from OnlyFans.
In an interview, Mr Ford, a 46-year-old former gay porn producer and actor, said the site is set to generate around $ 20 million in revenue this year. He would love to take on the business that OnlyFans had planned to reject.
But he faces his own obstacles. He is currently working on plans to require documents and consent forms for all performers.
“It’s a good thing,” he said, to make things more professional. “We’ve had releases on every movie I’ve ever made.”
Still, he will have to hire people to handle a lot of the paperwork. It will be expensive.
Austin Wolf, an adult artist who founded the Formyfans site, said that in his own experience the issues with payment processors have been minimal. “It’s an excuse,” he said of OnlyFans’ reasoning for its proposed ban on sexually explicit content. “We all understand what we need to make our decisions look valid. “
A number of industry players, including Mr Gross, believe cryptocurrency will be a major payment workaround. But the bulk of the income for most online sites comes from automated, recurring subscriptions. And there is no way to execute them through most crypto payment systems. “There is no traction mechanism in place,” Mr. Ford said.
In light of Wednesday’s announcement, artists might not feel the urgency to move so quickly to other venues. As for OnlyFans, the decision may have been made for the sake of self-preservation.
“Do you remember what happened to Tumblr? Mr Gross said, referring to his 2018 decision to ban pornography. “It’s completely irrelevant.”
Mike isaac contributed reports.